Monday, 11 April 2011

Amy Pennington – A Whistlestop Tour of Letterpress

Artist Amy Pennington is based at the From Space workshop on Chapel Street, Salford. Her work encompasses drawings, installations, film and print exploring “everyday life and subject matters and often things that I find interesting in Manchester”. This includes an ongoing project about Belle Vue, which has involved undertaking research in the North West Film Archive, leading up to animations and 3D work. She enthused: “I just find it absolutely mad that there used to be a grand Victorian theme park in Manchester. I'm fascinated by how it developed, what it became and how it shut down – I think there's something really interesting in there, that something so grand and memorable is reduced to nothing now really – a greyhound track and a housing estate."

Since January, Amy's work has taken on a new dimension as she has spent one day a week as a printer's devil – the industry name for apprentice – at Incline Press in Oldham. The apprenticeship came about as Amy applied to become a community researcher with the Library Theatre's Craftworks project, for which artists explored the part traditional crafts and Manchester's industrial heritage play in the modern city. The project culminated in two evenings of performances at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation last month, for which Amy produced a beautiful artists' book about the letterpress and traditional printing methods and allowed visitors to press their own band for the cover.

She explained: “Letterpress has always interested me. It's got a lovely quality to it. I like the way it embosses onto the paper sometimes. Inkjet just isn't as nice as having that ink right there in front of you. A lot of people pay to get their wedding invitations letterpress printed as it's the most important day of their lives and letterpress gives such a nice feel and finish.”

She continued: “Nowadays technology is enabling letterpress to carry on. Type is becoming really rare and not the best quality – antiques dealers and people on ebay sell it for an absolute fortune.”

The Craftworks project enabled Amy to meet different people working with traditional printing methods all over Greater Manchester. She explained: “I put the proposal in to Craftworks as it's a great opportunity to dedicate yourself to something, to have a purpose. I met so many amazing people and was so inspired by what they do and that they have managed to keep themselves going as letterpress practitioners. It's about people sharing their knowledge of it all. There's so much to know! It's really added something to my work. What I've got out of it is ongoing. I've made links and formed friendships.”

She added: “It's really nice to learn an actual craft – to learn the terminology and a great opportunity for me to make something. At Incline I set up the polymer plate and do type setting and dissing (putting away) type. When I've been there I feel like I've done a proper day's work!”

Amy will be demonstrating the letterpress at the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention on Saturday May 14 and allowing visitors to have a go, as well as selling copies of A Whistlestop Tour of Letterpress.

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